With the United States Congress‘ failure to reach a deal to prevent subsidized student loan interest rates from doubling from 3.4% to 6.8%, I’ve heard this would cost the average borrower an additional grand over the average per the life of a typical loan.
In 2010-2011, worldwide protests dubbed the “Arab Spring” swept the globe and ousted longtime rulers of Egypt and Tunisia, but this spring-fever would soon thaw when regimes in countries like Syria or Bahrain still go un-toppled and their people’s voices remain stifled and unheard.
While the U.S. has seen a flare for protest, namely in the early-oughts with anti-war protests against the Iraq War, and the more contemporary examples of domestic mass-gathering has lacked a singular cohesive narrative or theme, whether the narrow-focused libertarian Tea Party or the more decentralized redistributive Occupy movement, Americans have not taken to the streets in equal number to match the teeming crowds of Tahrir Square in Cairo or in the streets of Rio De Janeiro over government spending on luxury stadiums. One could ask, why? Are Americans in the U.S. simply so content and satisfied that protest is not considered? Or are tactics and strategy in place to intimidate and suppress any attempt at gathering en masse?
Certainly points have been made between provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, that look to curtail any form of protest in public space, and trading liberty for a so-called security. Or the parallels could also be drawn between the government response and the put down of protest in recent memory in Seattle in 1999 at the infamous WTO meetings, as well as the more recent police and FBI crackdowns on Occupy-related gatherings in New York City, California, and Chicago that give pause and second thought to peacefully assemble. Or even the most recent revelations of IRS intimidation over political identification. All of this, combined with the recent Edward Snowden leak regarding the NSA data mining on all American telecom and Internet activity, create an atmosphere for the people of the United States far heavier in its weariness to whistleblow or take to the street to protest a point.
What then, could cause the people to finally shake off this contentedness and demand a change? Will the Tea Party re-emerge and become a more formidable political force? Will Occupy retake the national dialogue over economic equality as worker’s wages continue to stagnant and depress as CEO’s take-home balloons? Will the current U.S. Congress‘ basic ineptitude be the triggering mechanism that finally causes the fault line to erupt to see an American Summer akin to an Arab Spring of people demanding acknowledgment and true representation not beholden to the highest bidder? While subsidized college loan interest rates doubling to a level still drooled over by a great many in finance may seem trivial, the question that underlies the rate hike is could this be the straw that breaks a complacent camel’s back and floods the streets with people seeking change in the U.S.? Or are contingencies already in place to suppress any attempt at this?
With the news that Brazil‘s massive protest over this summer has led to their demands being heard, as the Brazilian government has agreed to invest 100% of oil revenue into education and healthcare, could this be a reflective point for U.S. workers and students to see themselves and ask: Why not us?